Sugar-sweet love letter to the Nintendo DS

It’s a few days old already, but Eurogamer has posted a [love letter to the DS]( that is just too sweet to miss. They’re not just getting all emotional and fanboyant about it, they also provide some reasons *why* they’re getting all emotional and fanboyant. Look at what they say about the incorporation of the physical characteristics of the DS into Another Code’s puzzles, for example.

They talk as if they’d devoured my little gaming soul and now it’s pouring back out of their nostrils, regurgitated as honey-scented liquid gold. That turns the night ablaze.


The Tale of the Secret Lasagne

Do you like lasagne? Let’s assume that you do, otherwise this whole thought experiment breaks apart. What if the recipe for lasagne were a secret, guarded by one chain of restaurants?

You’d have to go to one of the restaurants from that one restaurant chain to get your lasagne. The chef there is hiding in the kitchen with his assistants, masterfully layering the pasta, whisking bechamel sauce, and stirring in his huge pot of bolognese. The scents! Garlic, fresh herbs, onions frying in their pans, everything coming together in a choreography of knives, ladles, flour and white chef’s hats. Wonderful!

Only you won’t see any of that, because you don’t get to peek.

The restaurant chain has decided that no one else may know how to make their lasagne. You are welcome to come and eat the lasagne at their restaurant, but **you may not**:

– Share your particular serving of lasagne with anyone else.
– Have the recipe to make your own lasagne at home.
– Take apart the lasagne and guess how it might have been made.
– Change anything about your lasagne.
– Eat this casual lasagne in a business or otherwise commercial meeting.
– Put this lasagne on more than one plate. Only the plate the waiter brought you may be used with this lasagne. If you try to put it on another plate, it will be taken away from you.

The price of lasagne would be entirely at the restaurant chain’s whim.

Are you happy with this situation? Maybe not. Maybe you want to make lasagne at home, for your friends. Maybe you want really spicy bolognese or skip the bechamel sauce and replace the deadcow with veggies so your vegan buddy can eat, too. But you can’t. The restaurant won’t tell you how to make lasagne. You can go ahead and try to figure it out on your own, but lasagne is quite complicated. You’d never get everything right, and then things just won’t taste the way they should. People trying to eat your lasagne would complain. Also, you might get a visit from the restaurant’s lawyers if they find out you’re trying to make lasagne. After all, the company owns patents in lasagne and they have to make sure you’re not copying their secret mix of spices.

You decide that this is not a cheeryhappy situation. You’d rather cook your own food. Maybe you don’t even *like* lasagne that much, even if by far most of the planet is eating lasagne exclusively. You decide that you’ll look around for recipes, maybe there is other pasta you can make.

What you discover is that there are other people fed up with the policies of the restaurant. “Boo,” they say, “we want Spaghetti Carbonara, Texas Ranch style!” Or they want delicious little Ravioli filled with a puréed scampi, suited for business meetings. They want to *know* how these things are made, so they can make their own variations, so they can adapt the dough. Glutene-free tagliatelle for all!

People have special needs like that. Companies are just collections of people, so companies have special needs, too. People want to feel safe knowing that when mother, sadly but inevitably, passes away, her recipe for Pappardelle del Cacciatore is still here to delight friends and family. People want to cook together, share ideas, share recipes, make little changes here and there and when they’ve changed someone else’s recipe enough, they want to call it their own.

It would be silly to keep recipes a secret, yet if you compare recipes to source code, that’s exactly what many companies are doing today. Entire operating systems are delivered in a binary-only form. If you want to use them, you are forced into accepting a license that prevents you from ever figuring out how they work. The company/restaurant even forbids you from sharing the operating system with other people. It’s as if you could only eat your lasagne ready-cooked and finished, always the same lasagne, the same taste. You’d never even know if everyone at your table can actually eat it.

But perhaps times change and people don’t want to be treated like mental prisoners anymore. Maybe one day everyone’s fed up with lasagne. No one visits the restaurant anymore, and because the restaurant doesn’t want to change its policies, it goes bankrupt. Too bad that the recipe was a secret, because now it’s gone. Forever.

## Hints for deciphering this possibly awkward analogy

– The recipe stands for source code.
– The lasagne stands for proprietary programs of any kind. Proprietary means that only one single company controls the program in question, most of the time only that company has the source code and refuses to cooperate with others or, god forbid, share the code. One example for this kind of software is Microsoft’s Windows.
– The cooks who’d rather cook their own pasta symbolize the free software community. With free software (software libre), anyone can see the source code, anyone can make adaptations, anyone can publish their own changes and versions. **Everyone is a cook!** Amateurs welcome.
– The dying mother who takes her recipe into the grave (I’m sorry about that analogy) symbolizes what happens when a company who made non-free, closed software goes out of business. If you’ve been using that company’s software, you cannot be sure that you can ever again use any of the files you and your colleagues created. You cannot continue working with their software because it was secret and is no longer being updated. Your company will have to face the huge expenses of switching to another solution and recovering all the data in its old, non-free and closed files. With open standards and free software, none of these headaches and financial losses would occur.

So, what benefits are there to proprietary software? Wouldn’t you rather cook your own, or eat what other people you know are cooking, and have a say in what goes into the pot?

Buenzli 15: Explosive

The [Buenzli]( demoparty takes place every year in Winterthur.

I spent a very nice Saturday late-afternoon-to-evening there yesterday and even took a few [pictures]( The atmosphere was cheerful (“Gude LAUNE!!!”) and everyone seems to have had a ball, or perhaps two. Some quite amazing demos came up in the PC Demo and 64k compos. I can’t remember the names off-hand, but at least two were very avant-garde while at the same time retaining some old-school elements and spirit. One of them was by Lapsen, so much I know.

To my own disappointment, I liked the oldschooliest demo best, Brainstorm’s Old’s Cool 🙂

In case you don’t know what demos are, perhaps this [Wikipedia entry]( will be useful.

Update: Here are this year’s [entries from]( And Lapsen’s Dream of a Scapegoat won the jury prize as demo, so I wasn’t far off the mark there 🙂

Epyx: Wise fwom yo gwave!

Epyx is returning! They’ll be bringing updated versions of California Games and Impossible Mission to the DS, Wii and PSP. And no polygons involved!

The Last Ninja trilogy might follow later. The *Last Ninja*.

*knees… trembling… eyesight… fading…*

*must… not… faint…*

Originally on [Gamespot](

Agalloch's Ashes Against the Grain: Superb!

If you don’t know Agalloch, they make a sort of lightweight black metal with strong doom and some folk influence.

Their last two albums were already quite convincing, but I think with Ashes Against the Grain, Agalloch have truly found their legs. There is an all-permeating wailing melancholy that is expertly woven into all the tracks, yet never overpowers. That doesn’t mean the songs have no force. Some small, sad melodies of five or six notes still have the power of entire arias, as heard during Our Fortress is Burning, and there are enough heavy, pounding riffs all around. A very good mix.

The musical evolution from the last album is not **that** pronounced. Still, the songwriting seems more confident, compact and reflected. You truly get the feeling that this time, the band knows exactly where it’s heading.

Where earlier albums sometimes left you bored, the new tracks are very unpredictable. Every time you get used to a certain repeating melody, the song changes or interesting new elements are introduced. This works wonders against any boredom. The folk elements, by the way, were pushed back a bit to make way for more concentrated Black and Doom.

The production is again excellent, perhaps a bit clearer than on Pale Folklore.

All in all, I’m very pleased with Agalloch’s progress, they’re now somewhere on my list of favorite bands. I’ve already preordered the album and I hope the guys will tour Europe sometime, so I can stand in line for a concert 🙂

I passed the CPE test!

Look what Cambridge’s exam results site just said to me:

![CPE Grade A](

Whee! So now I may officially wield my stupefying linguistic prowess like a weapon. A weapon of *words*!

But seriously: Now Swiss employers will finally believe me when I claim to know English. In Switzerland, you’re not taken seriously without diplomas and certificates. If you mention your amazing handstand abilities in your CV but fail to provide written proof, no boss will ever believe that you can do a handstand. Even if you walk to your interview on your palms. In front of them.

Recipe: Pot au Fou (lactose-free)

My girlfriend went off on a work-related BBQ event, but not without leaving me two pieces of her bacon-wrapped chicken. Excavations in the fridge revealed an eggplant and vestiges of cheesy maccaroni. Interesting, but it doesn’t quite fit together. To rescue: the Pot au Fou!

– Take an **eggplant** and slice it up, equal thickness if possible:


– Put some **olive oil** into a pot (with lid) that you can use in the oven. You don’t need much oil if you also use bacon, like me! Then add some **meat** that you’ve seasoned. Use more meat, less meat, it’s your choice.


– Layer your **eggplant slices** on top of the meat and season them to taste. Don’t use too much salt as it would pull the liquid out of the poor eggplant. I recommend a bit of salt, pepper and paprika powder, plus some garlic. Sprinkle olive oil on every layer of eggplant, but not too much! If there are any holes consisting of non-eggplant, stick some **pasta leftovers** in there. If you don’t have leftovers, you can cook pasta fresh for this dish, but that’d use an additional pot. The horror!


– Cover and stick in the oven for **20 – 30 minutes at 180 – 200 C**. The exact temperatures depend a bit on the thickness of your meat. You want the meat to be well done, especially if it’s chicken. If uncertainty overcomes you in the middle of cooking but the eggplant looks finished already, set your oven to only heat from below for a few minutes so the meat gets most of the heat. That rhymes!

– The result might look like this:


– Not very yummy? Wrong! Look at it on its own little plate:


Okay, it looks like brains, chimp fists and noodles. But don’t let that keep you from making this wonderful dish. The eggplant tastes almost like grilled, and the layers further down suck up delicious olive oil which further amplifies their flavors.


Two Finnish kitchen implements everyone should have

The first is the [kuivauskaappi]( It’s a closet where you can put your dishes and other things to dry. Where you would normally find solid shelving, hyper glory magical kuivauskaappi has rubberized iron grills! You put your items-to-be-dried in there, the water drips from them onto the sink, and they (now hold your breath) dry!

How nobody else can have this is beyond me. Just think of it, never touch a towel again to dry the dishes! It saves time! If everyone in Germany or perhaps Spain had one of these, the EU’s GDP would take a jump of 30%.

The other thing is [built-in cutting boards]( No more lugging around thick slabs of wood and crumbing up the entire kitchen.

Please, kitchen builders of Europe, steal this stuff.

The .fi is the friend of the lactose-intolerant!

There’s barely any milk product that you can’t get lactose-free in Finland! We bought [pseudo-Emmentaler]( cheese yesterday, and there’s Gouda too, as well as all sorts of ice cream. Generally, most Valio products are [lactose-free]( Finland is like some sort of fairyland happy-place for lactose-intolerant people, only with considerably less fairies and more beer.

Happiness is me!

First photos from Tampere

I’ve started putting my holiday pictures into [an album]( No drunken Finns in any of them yet, but I do have some snapshots of the amazingly scarce resource that is Finnish woods!

Random trivia: Took about 3 hours by plane from Zürich to Helsinki, where I had a [salad]( with Jon. Later I found low-lactose cappucino at a [Robert’s Coffee]( at the Helsinki train station. Quite yummy! From there I took the train to Tampere, another 2 hours or so.

I think the next 200 or so pictures will be of 1. GameCube gaming sessions, 2. drunken people and 3. trees. So if you have a vivid enough imagination, you won’t even have to look at that album anymore 🙂